Barcelona vs Man Utd Is Most Watched Champions League Final in U.S. History

Fox logo Barcelona vs Man Utd Is Most Watched Champions League Final in U.S. History

The 2011 Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona on FOX TV in the United States was the most watched and highest-rated Champions League Final in U.S. history, according to national ratings figures released by Nielsen Media Research.

FOX and FOX Deportes generate a 2.1 household rating and 6 share, drawing an audience of 4.2 million viewers nationally, dwarfing the ratings and audience of a year ago by +75% and +91%, respectively.  The 2010 UEFA Champions League Final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, which aired on FOX and Fox Sports en Español (now FOX Deportes), combined for a 1.2 HH rating with an audience of 2.2 million.

The FOX over-the-air broadcast earned a 1.4/4 household rating/share, with an audience of 2.6 million viewers compared to a 1.0 HH rating and 1.6 million viewers a year ago, +40% in rating and +63% in audience.  Simultaneously, FOX Deportes notched a 0.7/2 rating in total US homes for this year’s match, with an audience of 1.6 million, +133% in HH rating (0.3) and +167% in audience (600,000).

Significantly, the English-language broadcast of Saturday’s match beat the 2009 Champions League Final which also featured Manchester United and Barcelona by +56% in rating (1.4 vs. 0.9) and +86% in audience (2.6 million vs. 1.4 million).  Combined, the 2011 match on FOX and FOX Deportes bettered the 2009 match by +62% on rating (2.1 vs. 1.3) and +24% on viewership (4.2 million vs. 2.1 million).

U.S. viewership of the UEFA Champions League Final has exploded in recent years. This is the seventh straight year that English-language viewing of the Champions League Final has increased in the U.S.  Over the last 10 years, viewing has increased almost 10-fold, from 264,000 viewers on ESPN in 2002 to 2.6 million on FOX this year.

Soccer continues to draw an impressively young audience.  Saturday’s match earned a 1.8 among Men 18-34 on FOX, which is +29% higher than the HH rating. It’s exceptionally rare for a sports event to be that much stronger among the younger demo than it is overall.

In terms of the Spanish-language audience, FOX Deportes’ telecast of the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final is the highest-rated ever on Spanish-language television and generated the biggest audience for any event in the history of Spanish-language sports networks.  The match attracted 1.5 million Spanish language viewers, a record for any Spanish-language sports cable network in the U.S., up +206% compared to the 2010 Champions League Final, more than tripling the number of Hispanic viewers (490,000) from a year ago.  The match pulled a 13.0 coverage area HH rating, the third-highest in the network’s history and up an incredible +152% versus last year’s 5.15 Final.

FOX Sports Media Group recently extended its contract with the UEFA Champions League through 2015.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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31 Responses to Barcelona vs Man Utd Is Most Watched Champions League Final in U.S. History

  1. brn442 says:

    The increase to viewership can be attributed to UEFA in their delayed intelligence, moving the final to Saturday, and considering the ratings don’t reflect the punters at the pubs – it’s even more impressive.

  2. Phenoum says:

    I wonder if they dumbed down their coverage on the FOX Deportes. Im assuming not…

  3. Pedro says:

    Champion’s League Final ratings in Canada:

    Game was on Rogers Sportsnet

    SportsnetPRguy Dave Rashford
    Audience numbers for the UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday was up 45% over last year.
    1 Jun

    http://twitter.com/#!/SportsnetPRguy

  4. Brian says:

    I’m curious what if any increase in ratings ESPN would have had if they had the rights to the game instead of Fox. The game was on a weekday when ESPN had the rights, and I think they would have been able have a higher number of viewers than Fox did this year.

    • Lyle says:

      Ah… No. Unless you mean ABC. This was free television, not cable television.

      • Brian says:

        ESPN is in 100 million households, so I don’t think it would matter that the game is on cable and not free tv channels. When ESPN last held the rights the ratings for the final increased from 1.09 million to 1.4 million, and that was on a weekday. Some of the highest ratings for athletic events in the US have been on ESPN, in addition ESPN would do a better job of promoting the event as they have shown a willingness to take chances on soccer.

        • Lyle says:

          Dude… of course it matters rather it is free or not. More people can watch it, as in anyone with a TV!!! That’s why ESPN won’t ever be showing the Super Bowl, because they’re simply not big enough. ABC would put it on their regular channel with ESPN tagging alone for pre and post game scraps.

          The Champions League final is just too big for ESPN now. Never again will they show. Never.

          • Brandon says:

            You don’t know what you are talking about. ESPN had rights to the BCS National Championship game and got massive ratings. They are bidding for the Olympics and have a legit chance of getting it. ESPN can show big events if they so choose with no issue whatsoever. They decided they didin’t want to pay for the Champions League and picked up the EPL instead.

          • nicc says:

            not that I completely agree with Lyle but if you look back at the past couple World Cups and Euro tournaments that ESPN has had all of the BIG matches were aired on ABC instead.
            how much of that was due to everyone getting ABC while you had to have cable/sat to see ESPN?

          • Brian says:

            ESPN showed the Ghana-US game and got a 2.6 rating for it, one of the highest for a sporting event in recently, those type of ratings are not “Too Big” for ESPN. They are actually pretty small for a large sporting event. Also my point is it would be interesting to compare what the ratings would be if the Champions League Final was on a Saturday as opposed to the weekday.

          • Terrence says:

            For the ESPN vs. ABC BSC-comparison: The BCS NC got a 17.2 rating (30.8 million viewers) on ABC in 2010 (Texas/Alabama) and a16.1 rating (27.3 million viewers) on ESPN in 2011 (Oregon/Auburn), the largest number of viewers for any program on cable in history! In the previous 10 years, there are 4 ratings lower than ESPN’s (3 on ABC, 1 on FOX).

            For the FOX vs. ESPN UEFACL-comparison: We have the same game, Manchester United v. Barcelona. In 2009 ESPN got a 1.1 rating (1.43 million viewers) on a weekday and in 2011 FOX got a 2.1 rating (4.2 million viewers) on a weekend. But more people would watch a rematch. More people would watch on network. More people would watch a closer game (for up to an hour, the second one was). I think more people know who are on the teams than before post-World Cup.

            It’s hard for me to fathom there being much of a drop. Maybe ESPN gets a 2.0 instead of 2.1, because there were a lot of things going for this game.

    • joejoe says:

      ESPN had the rights and Fox paid more to get them. The ratings on any cable station are always going to be less than free OTA. The difference is that cable networks can make more money even if viewership is lower because they have two revenue streams (advertisement and Cable/Sat provider). In any case I think ESPN has EURO2012, so you may compare all you want then

  5. maw4bc says:

    Here is the deal with soccer in america, more kids are going to grew in to the sport here in the US because of one thing. Availability to watch the best players in the world. 15 years ago it was impossible to watch Spanish/English league football. Now you can watch almost every match from the leagues and can definitely watch the top teams play week in and week out. Italy, Germany, World Cup, etc. All these are now widely available in the US. That wasn’t the cause when I was growing up. If I wanted to see soccer (and at the time I didn’t) then I was screwed.

    I never followed soccer until I started randomly catching Premier League games on Fox Sports World back in 2002. I actually hated soccer until then. But then you see the best players in the world, the passion, etc and I was hooked. I don’t follow the MLS much, and yes the play has gotten significantly better in the league, but people just won’t be blown away by it.

    I think in the next ten years, when you literally will probably be able to watch, ANY match from almost ANY league. Whenever, Wherever. You will see the sport grow more and more. I see this as a good thing for the MLS as well.

    • Pete Q says:

      I’ve been saying this for years. It’s like when the NBA started broadcasting games overseas in Europe. The European kids were seeing the best players in the world (and usually marquee teams like Boston-LA). They got to see how the game is played and eventually became more skilled at the sport than American basketball players. Now the sport is truly global.

      The same thing will happen with football (soccer). Prior to ESPN’s coverage of the EPL and La Liga, American kids only exposure to soccer was every four years at the World Cup and the piss-poor MLS. Now these kids can wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning before they head out to the soccer fields and watch United, Barca, Real, Chelsea, or Arsenal play. Fox Soccer and ESPN have really made an impact.

      The next goal should be to stop dummying down the broadcasts and trying to market it to an American audience. The sport and intelligent commentary from overseas correspondents will sell itself.

  6. Robin says:

    The only reason this game was so high was because most of the audience is Gloryhunters

  7. Taimur says:

    The growing availability of the European game in the US will increase the interest of the sport and the knowledge amongst the people. FSC, GolTV, and replays and live matches on ESPN3 will increase the knowledge of the teams and its players. By the time the Champions League final comes next May, people will have watched at least one of those teams play at least half-dozen times through the outlets mentioned above. So hypothetically, f AC MILAN are in the final next May, you’ll have probably watched them play dozens of times on FSC or espn3 in Serie A and Champions League.

  8. Robert says:

    Suck it MLS

    • MG says:

      What exactly does the MLS have to do with this? Why should it ‘suck’ it? I serrrrriously don’t understand the anti-MLS mentality.. You are American aren’t you? You’re clearly a football fan, aren’t you? Why the MLS hate?

      • Alex says:

        im not a hater of mls (i like to call myself a critic of MLS. i like MLS, i just dont like the way its structure therefore many call me a hater or a eurosnob) but i can connect with Roberts comment. some people are too MLS fanboys to realize the fact that there are soccer fans here and that everyone must pay attention to MLS or else they are morons. there are alot of soccer fans here so yea, to mls fanboys suck it.

    • Tim says:

      Yes because two clubs that have been around for a combined 200 years, are connected with the largest and best marketed sporting goods manufacturer, have their own TV channel, have the largest non-national team stadiums in their respective countries, and whose most recent success has culminated at the expansion of TV rights have nothing to do with the ratings.

      Inter-Bayern had terrible ratings. These ratings were a result of the two most popular clubs in the world playing. So saying suck it MLS is just poor taste

  9. BA14 says:

    Ratings increase is due to Manchester United, plain and simple.

  10. Guy says:

    @Robin & BA14…then how do you account for:

    Significantly, the English-language broadcast of Saturday’s match beat the 2009 Champions League Final which also featured Manchester United and Barcelona by +56% in rating (1.4 vs. 0.9) and +86% in audience (2.6 million vs. 1.4 million). Combined, the 2011 match on FOX and FOX Deportes bettered the 2009 match by +62% on rating (2.1 vs. 1.3) and +24% on viewership (4.2 million vs. 2.1 million).

    Same teams. 2 years apart. Looks significant to me.

  11. Lyle says:

    Dude… of course it matters rather it is free or not. More people can watch it, as in anyone with a TV!!! That’s why ESPN won’t ever be showing the Super Bowl, because they’re simply not big enough. ABC would put it on their regular channel with ESPN tagging alone for pre and post game scraps.

    The Champions League final is just too big for ESPN now. Never again will they show it. Never.

  12. James says:

    Elements were in the right place for this one to have such high ratings. Network tv, Saturday as opposed to a weekday and the fact it was Man Utd and Barcelona. Just a perfect storm situation.

    Hopefully it continues, though.

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